Kotoricon 2015 – Like a Chair to the Back of the Head

When it comes to anime conventions, I have experienced cons of all shapes and sizes—from the overwhelming huge cons, to the piddling little shoebox-like single room/building affairs. I don’t see a con’s size as a factor in its enjoyment one way or another; being big, for example, isn’t going to make it necessarily better than a smaller con. And a small con can have its own share of shortcomings. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that I have the mindset of readiness regardless of what size the convention I’m going to. I’m not going to be caught off guard by anything short of—at this point—a meteor dropping on the venue.

Unless, that is, I’m given notice of a convention proportionate to its size.

My 2015 convention season opened up with Kotoricon in Sewell, New Jersey, hosted on the campus of Gloucester County—oh, wait! It’s not called that any more, it’s Rowan College at Gloucester County! And distinctly different but similar to Rowan University! Confused yet? Well as it turns out, the two colleges entered into some kind of agreement/merger/symbiotic relationship with one another, but all its done is turned a perfectly fine community college into the Diet Cola equivalent of a more famous school. I’m sure they have their reasons for it, but it’s not gonna stop people from calling it Gloucester County College.

Well what it means for the convention itself, when it really comes down to it, is fuck-all.

The con was Friday and Saturday, and thankfully, I had off from work at least on Saturday. It didn’t matter too much about having to drive down after work on Friday, as the con typically only has a few things on Friday evening anyhow. Just like last year. I stopped into the game room for a little bit, but didn’t find out until it was too late that the games they had on hand were for tournaments only. And the staff was less than courteous in informing me. They might as well have told me, “You’re here to play casually? GET OUT.” In any event, there was only one thing I was interested in that Friday night—Cosplay Wrestling! Yes, it’s like a professional wrestling show, only the costumes are much less silly.

The first thing to notice about the event was that it took place in the concert/stage building, with the ring smack dab in the middle of the stage. Granted, there wasn’t much on the wall near the far side of the ring and they weren’t exactly doing high-risk spots into the crowd, but it was still kind of odd. The hype man for the event laid down some ground rules—after asking us if we’ve ever been to any other wrestling events (indie fair such as ROH, Chikara, and CZW, the last with an obligatory “JEEZUS!” reference that only said hype man got), and that a) we’re missing out if we haven’t, and b) the rules are like that of Chikara, in that there is to be no cursing. Fine; it’s not like the crowd was coming up with chant after chant throughout the night. Anyhow, Uncle Yo was the MC for the night’s proceedings, announcing the wrestlers and firing up the crowd in between matches. The match that got the most hype was against C.M. Pikachu (a Pikachu/C.M. Punk mashup), against the Heartbreak Sylveon (a Sylveon/HBK mashup). They put on a decent match, which was interrupted by a run-in by Team Rocket—Giovanni and a bunch of grunts. Their promo led to Sailor Jupiter challenging them and getting pinned clean by a female grunt. Also on the card was Mario vs. Deadpool in a hardcore style match, which saw, as part of the finish, Mario take a bump onto dice (analogous for thumb tacks). The last advertised match was that of Connor Kenway vs. Monkey D. Luffy in a very well put together match. The finish involved Connor doing a “Leap of Faith” from the Assassins’ Creed games (which, is typically done into a conveniently placed bale of hay). Connor indeed did so…by putting a bag of actual hay on Luffy and back-flopping onto it, causing a cloud of allergens to linger over the stage and the hay a pain in the ass to clean up. Then, Team Rocket decided to come back and ruin the evening. The result was Uncle Yo challenging Giovanni to a winner-take-all battle royal, he and the handful of non-Rockets vs. Giovanni and the grunts. Apparently Yo needed to be out of the action for some time, so he could come back and do a Big Damn Heroes moment…but he achieved this by taking a nasty bump whereupon his face slammed into the ring, hard. Though to his credit, he took it in stride, and even got to throw out Giovanni to win the match.

Wow. Sometimes you look at the sentences you just typed and wonder if what you were reporting on was even real.

Saturday, I intended to get up early and see as much of the con as I could. I still did, but over-slept. Which sucked, because I really wanted to see friend of the show Michele Knotz’ panel, which had let out by the time I had found a place to park and got into the con itself. Among my exploration of the buildings, I found there was a second game room which had a few arcade cabinets set up on free play, an Initial D pachinko machine, and a few tables for tabletop gaming.

Among my trips to the artists alley and dealers room, taking photos and chatting people up, I did land at a few panels. First was the Castlevania: A Bloodstained History panel, wherein the panelist and patrons discussed the timeline, history, and appeal of the Castlevania franchise. I knew I was in for a good discussion since the panelist not only knew very well what he was talking about, but also dis-closed he had a huge Castlevania sleeve tattoo he was in the process of completing.

There was also a screening of Dragon Ball Z Abridged in one of the other rooms, which I sat down to watch for a while, despite having already seen the series in its entirety thus far. I can’t help it; it’s good stuff. Something about seeing the reactions of the others watching always seems to get to me. Though I did wonder how others would react at some of the few profane parts considering there were little kids in the room. I guess the parents and their kids took it in stride. Good for them.

I got a little something to eat after that, which was decently priced considering it was a college cafeteria during an anime convention. Then, I found my way over to the Fine Arts center, where I caught the latter half of the Greg Cipes performance. It was primarily a jam session (heh), with him and an acoustic guitar. Greg’s a talented voice actor, who primarily does the voice of Beast Boy in Teen Titans Go! It was a little weird listening to him, considering his normal voice and his Beast Boy voice are very similar to one another. Plus, it’s very obvious that he’s a free spirit and into all sorts of new age-y stuff, from the way he talked and philosophized in between songs.

That eventually led into Uncle Yo stand-up after that, which they thankfully didn’t do a room clear beforehand. As usual, Uncle Yo put up a good performance, and much to the chagrin of everyone in the room—including him—the crew hadn’t done a good job of cleaning up the hay from the previous night’s wrestling festivities. Oh, and Uncle Yo made sure to remind us that he “won wrestling” the night before. Considering he isn’t trained in any professional wrestling arts (that I know of) and the only two classically, literally trained wrestlers were the Sailor Jupiter and the Team Rocket grunt from the second match, he put on a pretty good showing and had every right to brag.

Besides, while very popular, the Cosplay Wrestling was more for fun than anything. Had a celebrity like Uncle Yo been in a WWE-booked match and gone over, say, Daniel Bryan or Dean Ambrose, well then he would very much be on his own. (If it was TNA, he’d go over Christopher Daniels one week, win the title next, and then turn monster heel after that; this is only slightly less insane than typical TNA booking)

There wasn’t much to do after that, and the con felt like it was winding down around seven or so. So I took my leave of the place, and made my way to a nearby Seven Star Diner in Sewell for dinner. What was interesting is that I wasn’t the only one from the con to land there, especially since there were others in full cosplay while they ate. While I was waiting for my dinner, the booth next to me had Sailors Jupiter and Pluto, with their Sailor Mercury unfortunately ambushed at the entrance, tasked with explaining to non-fans what “cosplay” was and what it was all about. I could see the people she was talk-ing to, and one look on the poor saps’ faces told me that they had no fucking idea what she was talking about.

For what it was worth, Kotoricon was an enjoyable endeavor and a good way to kill a couple of days off after a long week at work. The staff was friendly and accommodating (mostly) and the panels, for what little the panelists had to go with, were very enjoyable. An odd way for me to start off the 2015 convention season, but it didn’t do anything that would drive me away and not want to come back next year. Now if only they could do something about press relations…

Ari Rockefeller

When he is not training Pokémon and being the very best, the Master of the Written Word churns out convention, video game, anime and movie reviews like clockwork. No one is more productive and dangerous with a pen and paper (or, in this case, a keyboard).

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